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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Kerbal Space Program 2: Everything we know

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It’s time to break out those spacesuits once more: Kerbal Space Program 2 has released in Early Access. But as you’ll see in KSP2 player reactions, the launch into Early Access hasn’t been the cleanest takeoff. Most of its new features—like multiplayer and interstellar travel—are still in development, leaving a sandbox mode that feels pretty bare beneath the bugs. Even with all the new bits and pieces to slap onto your newest shuttle projects, our Early Access impressions of KSP2 mean that, for now, we can only recommend it for hardcore fans.

As with everything in rocket science, there’s plenty to learn about KSP2, not limited to what kind of ships you’ll build, and how many will explode before you reach interstellar space. (It’ll be a lot.) Here’s everything we know about Kerbal Space Program 2, from its release date to the new features, tech, and distant worlds you can expect on your next journey spaceward.

What is the Kerbal Space Program 2 release date?

Kerbal Space Program 2 launched into early access on February 24, 2023. KSP2’s original release window was early 2020, but the game had been delayed four times. 

Launching with only the Sandbox mode playable, KSP 2’s early access development roadmap begins with gathering data to improve user experience, then moves to the addition of new interstellar exploration, colonies, and online multiplayer options.

Here’s the Kerbal Space Program 2 Early Access launch cinematic

Kerbal Space Program 2 has lifted off for early access, and we’ve got a new cinematic to celebrate the occasion. As with all Kerbal endeavors, the trailer kicks off with a launch that immediately goes literally sideways, as one of our beloved green astronauts ejects from a disintegrating shuttle. But cataclysmic failure is a crucial part of the joy of aerospace flight. Probably. In true KSP fashion, we watch as intrepid Kerbal engineers iterate through designs and technologies (and disasters), until their vessels eventually leave the solar system.

What other KSP2 trailers are there?

At our PC Gaming Show 2023 Preview, we were joined by creative director Nate Simpson for a Kerbal Space Program 2 overview, covering the sequel’s planned additions that’ll be hitting over the course of its time in Early Access and beyond. Many of those same additions are highlighted in an Early Access gameplay trailer from just before the February release. 

Kerbal Space Program 2 will feature interstellar travel

In Kerbal Space Program 2, you’ll be able to travel even farther into the final frontier. With mechanics arriving later in KSP2’s early access development, you’ll be able to leave the Kerbol System for distant stars with the addition of interstellar travel. Intercept Games is incorporating a suite of future-facing speculative propulsion technology that will allow you Kerbals to venture across the void between star systems.

Interstellar travel will involve more than just slapping a bunch of high-tech rocketry onto your shuttles. It’ll require building massive starships in orbital drydocks, with the assistance of resources from space colonies (more on that below). Creative director Nate Simpson characterized the process as a mothership concept—building multiple vessels and attaching them to a larger superproject.

The interstellar travel will initially be limited to a neighboring star called “Debdeb,” with other star systems planned as later additions.

Kerbal Space Program 2 will let you build space colonies

In addition to rockets and spaceplanes, players will be able to construct entire colonies. By flying colony modules to other planets, players will be able to create habitats that can support a small population of Kerbals. As more resources are transported to—and gathered by—the colony, its population will increase as the colony itself grows, offering more features until eventually they’ll offer their own VAB to build new rockets.

Additionally, orbital colonies will let you construct massive ships free from the restrictions of Kerbin’s gravity, which will be a key step in building interstellar craft. In our PC Gaming Show 2023 Preview interview, creative director Nate Simpson described how colony resource extraction and transport can be automated, with orbital colonies interconnected across an interplanetary trade network.

And because it’s Kerbal Space Program, you’ll be designing and building your colony structures. “Maybe most importantly, colonies are pretty fun to build,” Simpson said. “It’s still Kerbal, right? If you build a tower too tall, it’s still physical—it’ll fall over.” Like interstellar travel, space colonies will be a later early access addition.

Will Kerbal Space Program 2 have multiplayer?

Yes! …Eventually. Multiplayer is currently planned for the final stage in KSP2’s Early Access development roadmap, so we’ll still be waiting a bit before we’re sending rockets into space together. The multiplayer section on their website reads: “It’s KSP2…but with more chaos, competition, or cooperation — depending on your friends. Players should expect some hilarious and exciting moments as KSP2 will allow you to tackle challenges against or with other players.” In our interview with Star Theory, creative director Nate Simpson explained that “it is true to the spirit of the original Kerbal Space Program”.

In our interview during the PC Gaming Show 2023 Preview, Simpson revealed some details about the structure of KSP2 multiplayer. Players will be able to establish and join space agencies to play cooperatively together—or they can establish competing agencies, and engage in their own space races.

Construction should be less frustrating in KSP2

In a development update from 2021, the KSP2 team explains how they’re looking to make rocket construction less of a pain in KSP2. They don’t want “a button to do it for me” and are focused more on making the tools that do exist easier to comprehend. One example the developers give is procedural wings, which allow you to change the shape and size of wings while UI improvements let you seeing how things like lift and drag are affected by your changes in real time.

You’re also able to work on multiple sub-assemblies parallel to one another. “We have this orthographic view cube—it’s much easier to do things like line up a fin or line up a booster on a radial decoupler,” the developers say in the same update. “That’s a thing that was legendarily difficult to deal with in the original game.”

The KSP2 devs are also hoping to make thruster selection a less confusing process, as described in a December 2022 blog post. In KSP1, it could be difficult to pin down which engines were good for which purpose, with useful technical info buried in menus. In KSP2, finding the perfect thrusters for your staging will be an easier problem to wrap your head around. Engines will be divided by in-game terminology into four archetypes, each with their own intended function and recognizable visual language:

  • Booster: High-thrust, high-power engines good for getting things up into orbit, but with a low efficiency that makes them a poor choice for deep space travel.
  • Sustainer: All-arounder workhorse engines, balancing power and efficiency; good for maneuvering once out of atmosphere. Typically paired with boosters for the initial launch into orbit.
  • Orbital: Smaller-footprint engines, generally for landing stages.
  • Deep Space: Hyper-efficient, low-thrust engines, ideal for lengthy burns across in vacuum across long distances.

Kerbal Space Program 2 will be easier to learn

As complex as it was, Kerbal Space Program missed the mark on teaching some core concepts. For Kerbal Space Program 2, new tutorial animations will detail everything from delta-v to docking—ensuring players are armed for success. “It relies much more heavily on showing rather than telling,” the developers say in a 2021 update. “Everyone’s heard the word ‘orbit’. Everyone knows satellites go around the Earth. But there’s actually some other things about an orbit that are not intuitive until you see them illustrated in an animation.”

Crucially, it won’t be an easier game. As with Kerbal Space Program, you’ll be doing a lot of learning through failure. “The fun of failure is a huge part of what makes Kerbal great and a big part of what drives a lot of the social aspect of Kerbal,” Michael Cook, executive producer at Private Division, told PC Gamer, “because showing off your fun failures is many times much more entertaining than then even your successes.”

Will Kerbal Space Program 2 support mods?

Yes! Kerbal Space Program 2’s development is taking the importance of community modding fully into account. Devs have indicated an interest in better baked-in mod support, with the KSP2 website saying “the intent with KSP 2 is to improve the modding experience even further, and we look forward to hearing feedback from modders over the course of early access.”

Who’s making Kerbal Space Program 2?

Originally in development at Star Theory Games, formerly known as Uber Entertainment, Kerbal Space Program 2 was eventually moved in-house to Intercept Games, a newly-founded development studio subsidiary of Private Division focused solely on KSP2 development.

“Key members” of the existing Kerbal 2 team including former Star Theory studio head Jeremy Ables, creative director Nate Simpson, and lead producer Nate Robinson moved to the new studio to continue work on the game. Original studio Squad is also involved, having wrapped up the final update on the original KSP to shift attention to the sequel.

OK, but how do I get to space?

Just add more rockets.

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